The Heretic : 1536: Who Will Survive the New World Order?, Paperback Book

The Heretic : 1536: Who Will Survive the New World Order? Paperback

4 out of 5 (13 ratings)


The Stage: While Brother Pacificus hides from his own past, the old world - monasteries, hospitals, guilds - is being squandered.

Now he awakes to a new world order: the rise of the restless rich, the omnipotent state, the triumph of fact. The Players: They were nobodies; pawns, misfits, caught in the cogs of other men's schemes.

A monk, a leper, a whore, an eel-catcher, three children with parents accused of heresy, washed up like flotsam in these Norfolk backwaters. The Inferno: Heresy, sedition, betrayal, murder; England's last Benedictine house boils over.

Trust no one. Watch your back. Good advice, yet these unlikely heroes must now trade trust for survival.

From the crypts of Saint Benet's Abbey, to the brutal streets of London and Antwerp, the companions must face their darkest fears to protect those they love.

From the coarse woollens and shattered dreams of the marsh, to the silks and intrigues of the Tudor court, they must learn to hang together. Or, of a certainty, they will hang separately. A thriller, romance, and novel of ideas, The Heretic is based on historical events and real people.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 608 pages, Maps in prelims
  • Publisher: Lion Hudson Plc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical fiction
  • ISBN: 9781782640950

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Showing 1 - 5 of 13 reviews.

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Review by

This book was daunting [600+ pp.] at first glance when I first opened it. But, I'm glad to say, it turned out to be a joy to read; I plunged right into Tudor England [which period I usually avoid] and into the lives and fortunes of the characters. The strands of the story come together: the monk, Pacificus, and his monastery under threat of dissolution, a leper, a family of Anabaptists, and an Anabaptist couple, Dutch eel-catchers, who shelter the children for a time. Pacificus and the leper, Simon, are former Hospitaller knights who have been disillusioned by their experiences in Rhodes. They aid the family by taking the children to the Dutch couple, who live in marshland near Norfolk. The children's father is killed for his faith and the mother imprisoned for hers. The author covered a great deal: a relic and how solving a riddle revealed its hiding place; the excitement of knightly action, such as the joust; several murders and how they are solved; and the religious component. Usually we read about Catholics and Anglicans in that time period, but this novel involved Anabaptists. No religious discussion felt like proselytizing but just part of the story. There was enough violence to keep action fans happy. Various sections stood out for me: Pacificus and his encounter with the bees; the joust before the king and the whole climax of several chapters. I liked the Epilogue: a series of letters from different characters to the others, in which we are told the final destiny of all. I thought of this story as kind of a blend of Ivanhoe, rags-to-riches, and the seeking of each characters to follow their conscience. Although long and sprawling, the story was gripping.

Review by

I'll begin with a small confession for you, fellow readers. I have just spent an unreasonable amount of time hemming and hawing about what useful observations I could use to fill this review. I've finally stopped fighting the easy answer that resulted from my thoughtful assessment of the reading experience. The truth is that despite <i>The Heretic</i> being longer than most novels and the palpably dense prose style author Henry Vyner-Brooke uses to present a story uniformly rich in historical detail, evaluation of the fit of this book with your particular preferences and interests is likely to be strangely straightforward. Here is the one thing I think you should know in order to decide whether to read <i>The Heretic</i>: it's real genre fiction. Many historical fiction releases these days enjoy wide critical acclaim and popularity among readers. These books appeal fundamentally to readers uninterested in history as such; the main draw of the work is essentially similar to that of any given work of contemporary or literary fiction. The placement of the story in the past serves to enrich the setting and therefore many readers' imaginative engagement with the story the author wishes to tell; history does not seem like an end in itself in these texts.In <i>The Heretic</i>, the history is not just the framework for the fiction, as it were -- it is an essential part of the story's focus. If you do not enjoy reading history, this may not be the best choice for your next read. On the other hand, for history buffs like myself, this book can be a fun ride. Henry Vyner-Brooke has crafted a novel well-equipped to transport your imagination to the time the story takes place and extend this mental escape until the last page, if you have the time. The world of <i>The Hereitc</i> offers much to engross the mind of a reader interested in this particular period, in sum. Readers whose enjoyment of a novel of this description would depend upon the presence of general strengths outside of the historically rich plot (e.g. literary merit, the ability to maintain a steady and excellent sense of suspense , significant inclusion of another genre type in the plot) would be well-advised to look elsewhere rather than gamble their time and pleasure engaging with this book. This is what my own experience with the book has led me to believe; I do not pretend to have any knowledge about how you'll experience and evaluate this book or any other. Thanks for reading my ideas; I hope they are of some use to you as you consider what this work has to offer. Please be advised that I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.

Review by

My first reaction to my review copy of Henry Vyner-Brooks' 600+ page <i>The Heretic</i> was that I would not have requested it had I known it would be so long. If my eyes had voices, they would have been whimpering. Luckily, the main characters caught my interest quickly, so I kept putting the book down because I was worried about their chances of surviving. If you are also Catholic, as I am, don't fear that all of the Catholic characters will be corrupt, evil, and/or pathetically misguided. Yes, there will be corrupt and evil Catholic characters, but the same is true among the Protestant characters. The main character, Brother Pacificus, is an intensely honorable man who doesn't make the foolish assumption that God expects him to lock his brain away in a chest when it comes to questions about the right and wrong of religious beliefs. The author is skillful in using Pacificus' own observations to help the modern reader get a feel for the times.There is plenty of action as well as thinking going on. The Fenton family, honest Protestants when it was still unsafe to be Protestant in England, are first on the helpful cast list on pages 11-13. Trying to save their lives (and those of some other honest Protestants) accounts for a goodly portion of the action. There are also murders to solve and hidden treasure to be found.I'd like to see this book adapted as a mini-series. In the meantime, fans of historical fiction and whodunnits should pick up this book.

Review by

It is 1536 and Henry VIII, as head of the church, has started to dissolve the first few monasteries in England as part of the Reformation movement and the break with Rome. Meanwhile, in a small parish church in Norfolk, Brother Pacificus from the nearby abbey of St Benet’s is trying to live a life of peace and devotion after a turbulent past when he becomes involved in events outside his control, but, once involved, feels he has to act almost against his better judgement.This debut historical novel is clearly a labour of love and a matter close to the author’s heart, as well as being ambitious in both its scope and intended message; a shame then that he was let down by poor editing input. For the first 50 or so pages, the novel lacks a precise placement in time – though not atmosphere – (a reference to the Black Death being especially confusing), and could have been set at any one point in the Middle Ages or early modern period; the very few uttered clues that are there are easy to miss. It is only after this point that the writing in this respect becomes more assured and establishes a specific place in time. What follows is an often gripping narrative that is unfortunately too bogged down in my opinion with lengthy theological debates and Christian sermonising, with a plot that’s too convoluted and obscure at times, making some of the text too cryptic to be followed by the average reader without having to resolve to (online) reference materials. It is obvious that the subject is well researched, and I feel that I understand the events surrounding the Dissolution of the Monasteries and their consequences a little better now, though some historical facts were clearly adapted to suit the characters and the plot, but I also had the feeling that the author was – maybe inadvertently – trying to show off his superior knowledge, and I found the inclusion of frequent Latin phrases, though with the translation included, enormously distracting.There are too many initial characters, so I was grateful for the inclusion of a character list, but this is not comprehensive and misses out some of the locals, while the four maps do not really add much in terms of understanding the surroundings; I would have welcomed a glossary and some historical notes in an Appendix, though. The subject matter and the style of writing reminded me at times of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, while there are also echoes of The Name of the Rose; unfortunately the murder mystery is relegated to the part of a sub-plot, as the author could not make up his mind as to what this novel should be: the end result falls between two stools and doesn’t do justice to either. While the author often displays a lovely turn of phrase, and the prose is moving and affecting in places, the plot is also riddled with far-fetched coincidences, inaccuracies, inconsistencies and contradictions, which considerably marred my enjoyment of reading this novel, not least of them Pacificus’s supposed secret past, which is anything but, as nearly everyone he comes into contact with knows his identity and past deeds. Pacificus is a fantastic creation, an intriguing and complex character, but I wish the other figures would fare equally well; instead most of them are painted in either white or black, with no room for any shades of grey in-between: the good people are virtuous, generous and kind, the villains vain, devious and dangerous – there are few surprises here in terms of characterisation.I guess that a novel with the momentous events of the English Reformation at its heart had to necessarily tackle questions of faith, but, as mentioned above, the theological debates intruded a little too much on the unravelling of the plot, and the – in my eyes – apparent glorification of the Christian duty to suppress the Muslim foe did not sit easily with me. As an agnostic myself, the book revealed the contradictions inherent in organised religion, in this case Christianity, but at least the last few lines in the novel seem to call for some sort of religious tolerance.

Review by

This is an ambitious story that sheds light on the English reformation through the lives of multiple levels of society. The book should be read carefully and closely, especially because of the extensive use of terms dating from that time period. I referred continually to the list of characters at the front of the book, which helped considerably in following the story. In addition to the maps helpfully provided, I could have used a glossary of reformation terms. This huge sprawling book visited the lives of peasants, priests, soldiers, and the church in addition to referring to many other societal groups. Normally a fast reader, I found myself spending a considerable amount of time on this book.

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